Gold Medalist Michael Phelps is Happier Without Alcohol

By Valerie Tejeda 03/11/16

After a public battle with addiction, the Olympic gold medalist and father-to-be is alcohol free and praising the benefits of sobriety.

Gold Medalist Michael Phelps is Happier Without Alcohol
photo via Shutterstock/Everett Collection

Fresh off probation and a stint in rehab, Michael Phelps is living a "freer, happier life," he said Tuesday at a U.S. Olympic Committee press conference. 

Back in 2014, the 30-year-old Olympic gold medalist was arrested for driving under the influence and sentenced to 18 months supervised probation. But now, Phelps is gearing up for the summer 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, as well as looking forward to the birth of his first child. “One of the coolest things about being a father going into Rio is that our firstborn has the chance to see my last race ever,” he said, confirming this will be his last Olympic games.

Phelps, who says he hasn’t had a sip of alcohol in over a year, noticed a big difference in his body and mood since dropping booze. "It’s pretty crazy how big of a change I see from not having a drink," he said. "I see a complete change in how I am day to day. [I’m] completely clear-headed ... I’m actually happy every day. I’m actually able to be productive every day. I think that’s something that I am very proud of and, you know, I think when I do retire I’ll be able to look back and say that was something that really helped."

Getting arrested for drunk driving with the whole word watching was difficult, to say the least. But true to his Olympian nature, Phelps pushed through the pain, and is done hiding from his past. While in rehab, he was finally able to confront his anger at his absentee father, and also learned the value of being present in life. 

“I think you saw how difficult it was to not share anything for so many years,” he said at Tuesday's media summit. “When I look in the mirror, I’m still the same person but how I approach things is a little different. I keep the most important people closer to me than I ever have before. I actually pick up the phone when somebody calls—that’s a big change. I’m just more engaged in everything I do in my life.”

Phelps, who has won 18 Olympic gold medals, said he looks forward to retirement and enjoying fatherhood. Swimming will no longer be a driving force in his life, he said.

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix,, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.